Thursday, 1 January 2015

Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015...

2014 - A Year of Change

Looking back at all the events this year that have happened, I realised that have gone through so much. There are always recurring periods of happiness, sadness, excitement, boredom, pain and healing. For me this year was marked with moving to a new country, graduating, entering a new school, saying goodbye to old friends and saying hello to old friends.

I don't remember all of the events in my life very well. Too many things come and go, so it becomes difficult to keep track of cherished memories. Thankfully though, I am a regular Facebook user and from there I can go through and mark the milestones in my life.

Life events are represented with black-coloured text while blog-related events in dark green.


The year started in the middle of exam week for the first semester. Soon after the exams were over, the winter holidays started for IISM, my old school. I decided to spend the holidays in Cairo, Egypt to be with my family and experience a taste of living like an expat again. Our house in Cairo is located in a very picturesque compund named El-Safwa Resort. It has a swimming pool in the middle, but in winter it was far too cold to go out for a swim. I stayed at home mostly. Because of this, I had a lot of time for my blog!

This blog was still very new (it started last year in October) and I was still a newbie to writing anything for a global audience. I was enthusiastic about it though and I was able to write 4 posts for this month alone.


I made a short visit to my to NCBIS while still in Cairo and was accepted a place for the school's IB course. Flew back to Malaysia to begin the last semester of Grade Eleven, my last high-school year.

This semester was full of revision and exam-preparation for the IGCSE examinations in June. I moved into a new room with my best friend in the bottom floor of the hostel apartments by order of the principal. All Grade Eleveners in hostel were required to live in the same floor to facilitate a more effective study environment for each other and to avoid distractions. I bid farewell to my old Indonesian roommate. After that, I rarely ever went to the upper floor of hostel again.

Unfortunately it was this same month when the blog fell into a period of slumber - no new posts materialised after this single post. It was not until November that I restarted with anything interesting or productive. I suppose I may have made edits to existing posts, but those don't really count.


The highlight of this month is the International Day in IISM. This two-day event is a celebration of cultural diversity in the school, marked with various unique national presentations in booths and stage performances. This year was more special because last year's International Day was cancelled for some reason, and also because this was my last before I graduate.

Prior to the event much preparation was needed. The students were meant to help each of their group's booth, in my case, the Malaysia booth. The booth needs to showcase traditional items from each region, and I helped by putting them up in the booth the night before the event. With the stage performance, I came up with this brilliant idea to present the theme of Malay royalty. Long story short, it was a roaring success and everyone had lots of fun dressing up in traditional costumes, tasting foreign cuisines and watch bombastic stage performances that had the audience clapping for hours. 


Also known as the month of mocks. The mocks were pre-IGCSE exams prepared by IISM school teachers to test the students' ability at answering exam papers in exam conditions similar to the real one conducted by the Cambridge exam board. It was a big deal for everyone as the marks would be used to predict scores for upcoming official exams.

Unfortunately the mocks exam marks did not go so well for me. I almost fell to a B mark and saved by the skin of my teeth. My Math result was 75% and my Biology 81% - far too low by my standards. Due to changing grade boundaries, getting 80's in competitive subjects like Biology could mean a B, a nightmare for a perfectionist like me (I'm not sure it perfectionist is a derogatory term. People around me say like it is). 

So after the results came out, needless to say I studied and revised like crazy. I printed pages and pages of past papers from previous exams and answering them day in day out. It was only 3 weeks until the real exams, and I must be prepared to reach my goal: All A's and A*'s for all 9 subjects and become the first ever Humanities valedictorian. I musn't let anything to beat me now.


Last minute exam revision. Staying up late at night, lack of sleep and coffees are characteristic of this month. The room I stay in is a downright mess because I keep putting my textbooks, notebooks and past papers all over the place so that I could get my hands of them at any time.

Soon enough, it was judgement time: start of the official IGCSE exams in late May until early June. Exams spanned for three weeks. Some were easy, some were hard, but prior preparation paid off big-time!


Exams over in early June. After all of that my hostel buddies and I decided to celebrate by going 'jalan-jalan' (out-and-about) in Kuala Lumpur. We went mostly to shopping malls like Suria KLCC, Wangsa Walk and Berjaya Times Square, not just to shop but also to eat out, watch movies in the cinema, play bowling and shoot some arrows for the first time. It was awesome!

All that fun though has to come to an end. My years in IISM has come to a close, and said my goodbyes to all of my teachers who have ever taught me and wished them the best. To my hostel friends, parting was painful because we've been through so much together and known each other so well. I told them that I would visit them when I have holidays in my new school.

I took a flight to Cairo alone to spend most of my summer break with my family. The plan was to stay there for the holy fasting month of Ramadan which started in late-June. Yes, the daylight hours are long, but I don't find it much of an issue because I didn't have to go to school or anything. I went to Tarawih prayers almost every night here in this mosque and really enjoyed it there.

Also before I forget, this month is the month I was gifted my new phone: a brand new white Samsung Galaxy S3 given to me by my grandfather - God bless him. I really need to get him something special in return, but what? Let me know in the comments if you have any good ideas! 


Near the end of July, we as a family planned to fly back to Malaysia to meet up with our extended family members to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr. Only a few days left in Ramadan when we flew from Cairo to KL Airport. Eid was a big thing every year for our family because it was one of the only times of the year when my father and mother get to see their families. There was a lot of greetings and gifts exchanged, conversations and of course lots and lots of food like рәндаҥ (rendang) and кәтупат (ketupat). Every house we visit must have that served for guests for Eid.

Eventually we all got bored of eating the same thing over and over again so we went to a shopping mall in Johor (where my father's mother lives) and got this instead, courtesy of the Manhattan Fish Market:


While I am still in Malaysia, a long-anticipated email appeared in my in my inbox. It was from the Cambridge Exam Board, saying that they have the results of the IGCSE exams ready for me to find out. It's been causing a lot of commotion in Whatsapp, where the Grade Eleveners have been asking each other about how their grades were. Personally I was anxious because I really wanted to reach my goal and not get anything less than a B. I sighed a breath of relief and thanked God when I saw my results that day: 9 A*'s for all nine subjects I took.

It took time for me to announce it to other people. The first person I told was my grandmother. Later on I told my mum and my friends through Whatsapp and Facebook. It wasn't easy because at the time, I didn't want to seem like a show-off or hurt any of my friends' feelings, especially those who are trying to reach the same goal as me. However despite this assumption, everyone greeted me with warm congratulations for my achievement. I am so happy for everyone who had supported me, especially the teachers who deserve the most credit for helping me to become not only a better student, but also a better Muslim and a better human being. 

Late-August, we had to return to Cairo to begin the new school year in NCBIS. School started on the last day of August. So began a new chapter in my life: pre-university IB in a new environment surrounded by new people.

Before flying back to Egypt, Hafsa Zahid (the person who scored the second highest in school) sent me this photo:

It's official now: I am the first Humanities and hostel student to have ever become a valedictorian since the creation of the International Islamic School Malaysia, الحمد لله. 


Adjusting to my new school wasn't easy, but I got over my worries after a couple of weeks. I tried out for the school swim team and actually made it! Every week I would train after school and I'm glad to say that I am continuously improving in all of my swimming styles. I hope to compete by next year, that's my next big goal!


For some reason my old school IISM have the senior graduation ceremony loooooong after the actual exams finished. As a consequence, I have to return to Malaysia for it (I don't have a choice, it's my responsibility as a valedictorian).

Conveniently the ceremony takes place during the Eid-ul-Adha holidays, so I flew back to Malaysia for a short duration of one week (a very short holiday). Although I'd love to celebrate the Eid with more pomp, there wasn't much celebration compared to Eid-ul-Fitr.

Anyway on the day before the graduation, a few days after Eid itself, I travelled to Kuala Lumpur with the intent of revisiting the school I left several months ago. I first dropped off my things in school before taking a taxi and LRT to KLCC. My old friends from IISM and I decided to have a mini-reunion there and hang-out together just for fun. I haven't met these guys for 5 months! When we reached there, we had tons of fun, even if my best friend Syafiq came fashionably late. After watching an action movie in cinema and some shopping, I treated all of my buddies for lunch at Subway's. Not long after we had to part ways, as I had to return to school to pick up my things again.

I asked the school before coming if I could stay in hostel on the night before graduation, and they agreed! It was fantastic to meet my mates from hostel again. A lot has changed: there were many new faces which I don't recognise, and the rooms have been switched around as well. I spent a lot of time in the evening just chatting with them and just having a good time.

The next day, I went to school in the evening to attend the graduation ceremony in the school hall. It was a pleasant sight to see all of us Grade Eleveners reunited once more. It was a formal occasion and almost all of us guys came wearing suits and ties. During the ceremony, all of us have to wear those special graduating robes and hats and we received certificates for completing the exams on stage. For me, I had to travel up and down the stage over and over again because apparently the school decided to award me five times! I never expected such a crazy but amazing thing to happen in the first place. As a valedictorian, I had to come on stage and make the speech to everyone in the audience. I was anxious because I wrote up the speech last minute, but I put on my best British accent and read it out with full confidence. I felt so proud of myself after hearing everyone clap for me after that. 

The school gave me so many award thingamabobs that I wasn't at all able to carry them for my flight back to Cairo. I ended up only carrying my certificates.


NCBIS Sports Day was a blast (although not as epic as IISM's Sports Day) and I took part in many fun games and competitions. I competed in the 200 m run under Water House and won third place! I also took part in discus, the high jump and long jump which were open to anyone on that day. There were also other non-conventional events done just for fun to gain house points such as welly-throwing and rugby-ball-passing which were hilarious to watch and play.

This is also the same month when I breathed new life into this blog. After being long abandoned for almost the whole year (save for the apology post, which really does not mean much), I decided to push forward and force myself to write more and more. This sudden surge of motivation was gained after receiving an encouraging response from a new but prolific blogger Hafsa Zahid, owner of A Space Within. She started hers this year but had gained more followers than I ever had gotten since the creation of ЎР! Since then, I decided to follow her example in posting regularly and sticking to a schedule. This month saw a total of 5 new posts!


The year has come full circle with the winter holidays again, this time courtesy of NCBIS. 19th was my seventeenth birthday but nothing amazing happened on the day. The exciting thing happened after - the next day, we as a family took a plane south to Luxor. There we went on a 5-day Nile cruise with our guide, Mr. Khaled Alhowary who became our most valuable source of historical and practical information. We visited many grand temples, relics of the Ancient Egyptian past that we hardly get to see in the modern city of Cairo. The Nile cruise was quite relaxing as the boat moved slowly upstream, allowing serene and picturesque views of farmlands near the riverbanks. We ended the whole trip in Aswan, where we visited the Aswan High Dam and flew back from there back to Cairo. I learnt so much from that visit and I hope I can go back there again!

About the blog, the regular schedule got slightly disrupted due to the Aswan-Luxor holiday, but I am pleased to have written 4 posts this month. I still have lots of new ideas that I can write about for the next year!


My long term goals are:
Finish the school year, get really good grades, make my parents happy and win a swimming competition.

In the short term, the thing that's been bugging me in my mind is this blog. I still feel like I can't get enough readers or devoted followers. Hafsa suggested over and over again to transfer to WordPress since the blogger community there is more welcoming and sociable. I suppose if in a few months I still can't any more followers, I will abandon Blogger and shift all my stuff here to start a new WordPress blog. It will be the same blog, just newer and with a different format. Until then, I am hoping for the best with this one.

Thanks for a great year everyone!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, you make me regret not updating my facebook atleast once a month! My year's like.. A fast-forwarded blur now ._.
    Kinda funny how a "B" was a "bad grade", I used to be that way too. It's become a miracle score since I'd started A-levels though.. I'm seeing too many Cs and Ds nowadays, sadly. My fault of course :P
    Hmm gifts for a grandpa? Try give him something he'll use; a watch or walking stick maybe? Only if he needs one though ofc, it'd be rather offensive if he walks alright and you happen to hand him one :/
    Glad to know the suggestion helped~ best of luck, and thanks for the kind mention! Needless to say, I still think you should (you know what comes after that, ahaha)